Hunter Heck and Olivier Stuart earn All-Big Ten honors following strong conference campaigns


Sidney Malone

Sophomore Hunter Heck hypes up the team before the game against Purdue on April 24. Heck and graduate student Olivier Stuart earn All-Big Ten honors.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Sophomore Hunter Heck earned unanimous first team All-Big Ten honors and graduate student Olivier Stuart earned second team All-Big Ten honors on Thursday afternoon after stellar performances in Big Ten play this season.

Heck’s nomination came as a surprise to himself, despite his nomination to the first team being unanimous.

“It was a surprise for me,” Heck said. “I had a pretty good season, but I wasn’t expecting it.”

This “pretty good season”  from the sophomore included going undefeated in Big Ten singles with an 8-0 record. His only unfinished match was against No. 3 Ohio State’s No. 11 JJ Tracy, with Tracy winning the first set 6-4 and Heck up 2-0 in the second set before the match was called.

Heck’s highest profile victories were against No. 6 Michigan’s No. 33 Andrew Fenty and No. 26 Northwestern’s No. 30 Steven Forman. Heck beat Fenty 6-4, 6-4 on Court 2, with Illinois eventually losing the match 4-1 afterwards, and Heck beat Forman 7-6, 6-4 on Court 1 on the way to Illinois’ 4-1 upset over Northwestern.

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Ending the season on an 11-win streak, Heck’s confidence grew after his 6-5 start. Keeping the momentum from each win was key in taking down his next opponent.

“I didn’t have the greatest of fall seasons,” Heck said. “After talking with (head coach Brad Dancer), I was able to get focused again. I started putting in a little extra work here and there. That definitely helped get me in the right mental space for every match, and I was able to just carry that momentum once I started winning.”

Heck’s 17-5 overall singles record and 8-0 Big Ten singles record is extremely impressive, but he didn’t just shine in singles.

In doubles with partner redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve, Heck saw his highest ranking of the season. The pair earned a No. 35 ranking in doubles the week of March 14, 2022, after taking down No. 4 Baylor’s No. 19 Bass/Lah, 7-6 (9) on Court 1. Although the pair saw struggles in Big Ten singles, boasting a 2-4 record in conference, they proved over the course of the season they could hang with the best, ending the regular season as the No. 77 ranked doubles team.

Stuart’s campaign was also solid, boasting a 4-2 record in Big Ten singles, with the Frenchman also leading in all three of his unfinished matches. In Big Ten doubles, Stuart finished all of his matches, going 5-3 and winning with two different partners along the way.

Heck was one of these partners, as the team went 2-0 overall together in doubles. 

Stuart’s singles ranking fluctuated throughout the season, going from unranked up to No. 51 on April 6. Stuart was consistently the highest ranked Illini in singles, with only Heck contesting him throughout the season.

Additionally, his strong doubles performance earned him high rankings with redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi, as the pair peaked at No. 61 for two weeks in late March.

Playing alongside Stuart was a privilege for much of this Illini lineup. With his final year of eligibility being used this season, the team wishes that all five of Stuart’s years could have been spent in Champaign.

“It’s been really fun playing with (Olivier),” Heck said. “He’s been a great addition to our team. He’s really focused and just a fun guy to be around. Competing with him has been really fun. He’s been really consistent for us and I’m excited to see what we can do with him in (the Big Ten tournament).”

Both Stuart and Heck have the opportunity to add to their already decorated individual season at the Big Ten Championships, starting with Friday’s match against No. 3 Wisconsin, where this duo hopes to bring home back-to-back Big Ten trophies.

“It’s obviously a really good feeling,” Heck said. “But then again, the job’s not done. We’re shooting for Big Ten Championships.”



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